Written by B. R. Collins
Release August 5
Reviewed by Melissa
I can understand the lure of world-building, even though I'm not much of a world-builder myself; how it has the potential to draw a person in -- creating not just characters and situations, but landscape and history -- so that it would feel real to its creator. Perhaps this is what J.R.R. Tolkien felt when he was creating the mythology of Middle Earth. But -- and this is an interesting supposition -- what if you were an insecure 15-year-old boy, someone who had been bullied and beaten, someone who had finally shared his world with someone who he thought was a friend. And what if he thought that friend had betrayed -- strong word, but this is a 15-year-old after all -- him, and more importantly betrayed the world, and was secretly making fun of him? How far would he go to protect not only himself, but the world he created?
This is the basic premise of The Traitor Game. At the outset, I thought it would be something different -- creator Michael falling into his imaginary world, Evgard, which turns out to be real -- but in the end it wasn't that kind of fantasy book. After finishing, I'm not even sure this could be rightly classified as fantasy, which could cause some problems with booksellers and librarians. It's really a story of a boy (who just happened to create a world) trying to find some self-confidence. He goes about it in completely the wrong way, making some serious missteps (with some drastic consequences), and while it doesn't turn out all rosy, he does manage to make some strides in the right direction. That makes it sound more engaging than it was; I found the chapters dealing with Michael's life as a student angsty and ultimately kind of silly.
Interspersed with Michael's story is the story of Argent -- a character Michael has created -- and his capture by the enemy. He ends up befriending his captor, and then has to decide where his loyalties lie when an army from his homeland invades his captor's castle. I actually found this story more compelling; it was shorter, less annoying, and more interesting. However, the story only appeared every three or four chapters, so there was a lot of teen angst to wade through to get there. I also didn't get whether or not we were supposed to think these sequences were real. Was Michael there? Was Michael just making them up? Was Michael dreaming them? The jacket-flap seems to indicate that somehow they were real, that Michael was a part of the action in Evgard, rather than controlling it, creating it. I think it might have been a more interesting story if the two threads were more closely linked, rather than just being thematically parallel.
It did get me thinking, though, about the lines between reality and imagination and friendship and brutality. But that was about it. The rest of it I could have lived without.